One of my favorite comprehension strategies that I use in my classroom is “Think-Pair-Share ”. It is a simple, yet incredibly effective comprehension strategy that can be used with almost any book and takes no preparation time. I have borrowed a wonderful explanation of this strategy from Reading Quest.org, a website designed for teachers who wish too more effectively engage their students with the content in their classes. If you have never tried this in your own classroom, I highly encourage you to do so and post a comment below about the results. I bet you will be surprised at how quickly your students pick up on how to use this strategy and how much more of a lively discussion ALL of your students will be having about the question at hand.
What Is Think-Pair-Share?
Think-Pair-Share is a cooperative discussion strategy developed by Frank Lyman and his colleagues in Maryland in 1981. It gets its name from the three stages of student action, with emphasis on what students are to be DOING at each of those stages.
How Does It Work?
1) Think. The teacher provokes students' thinking with a question or prompt or observation. The students should take a few moments (not minutes) just to THINK about the question.
2) Pair. Using designated partners, nearby neighbors, or a desk mate, students PAIR up to talk about the answer each came up with. They compare their mental or written notes and identify the answers they think are best, most convincing, or most unique.
3) Share. After students talk in pairs for a few moments (again, not minutes), the teacher calls for pairs to SHARE their thinking with the rest of the class. The trick here is that students don’t share what they said, they have to share what their partner said, increasing their listening and retelling skills in the process. The teacher can choose to record these responses or simply listen to what is being shared.
Why Should I Use Think-Pair-Share?
We know that students learn, in part, by being able to talk about the content. But we do not want that to be a free-for-all. Think-Pair-Share is helpful because it structures the discussion. Students follow a prescribed process that limits off-task thinking and off-task behavior, and accountability is built in because each must report to a partner, and then partners must report to the class.
Because of the first stage, when students simply THINK, there is Wait Time: they actually have time to think about their answers. Because it is silent thinking time, you eliminate the problem of the eager and forward students who always shout out the answer, rendering unnecessary any thinking by other students. Also, the teacher has posed the question, and has EVERYONE thinking about the answer, which is much different from asking a question and then calling on an individual student, which leads some students to gamble they won't be the one out of 20 who gets called on and therefore they don't think much about the question. Students get to try out their answers in the private sanctuary of the pair, before having to "go public" before the rest of their classmates. Kids who would never speak up in class are at least giving an answer to SOMEONE this way. Also, they often find out that their answer, which they assumed to be silly or wrong, was actually not wrong at all...perhaps their partner thought of the same thing. Students also discover that they rethink their answer in order to express it to someone else, and they also often elaborate on their answer or think of new ideas as the partners share. These, it seems, are powerful reasons to employ Think-Pair-Share in order to structure students' thinking and their discussion.
ReadingQuest.org was created and is maintained by Raymond C. Jones PhD., University of Virginia.
Another website, Instructional Strategies Online, elaborates even more on the Think-Pair-Share method, giving hints and management ideas and how it can be adapted.
Scholastic also supports an excellent program, Text Talk, which is similar to Think-Pair-Share, and is a teaching method I use in my own classroom on a regular basis with great success. You can even try it for free, so check it out!
Too often we give children answers to remember instead of problems to solve. Roger Levin